NATIONAL NEWS

Biden meets at White House with the families of Americans taken hostage by Hamas

Dec 13, 2023, 2:04 AM | Updated: 8:18 am

FILE - President Joe Biden walks to the podium to deliver remarks on the war between Israel and Ham...

FILE - President Joe Biden walks to the podium to deliver remarks on the war between Israel and Hamas after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. Democratic views on how President Joe Biden is handling the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians have rebounded slightly, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday held his first in-person meeting with the families of some of the eight Americans still unaccounted for and presumed taken captive by Hamas during its deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the White House said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer joined Biden for the meeting. Thirteen of the family members attended the meeting in person, while three others joined the conversation with the president and his advisers by phone, according to the White House.

The Democratic president has previously met with some family members virtually and spoken to others on the phone. Biden was set to provide an update on American efforts to secure the release of those held by Hamas.

“He’ll guarantee them that we are not going to lose sight of their loved ones, we’re not going to stop trying to get them home,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on CNN as he previewed Biden’s message to the families. Kirby stressed that U.S. officials are “trying to get more information about them and to get a deal in place where we can get them back home.”

Biden’s meeting with the families of hostages came as his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, was to head to Israel on Thursday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, members of his war cabinet, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

The eight Americans remain unaccounted for after Hamas’ surprise air, sea and land incursion into Israeli towns, where the group killed about 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and took more than 240 people hostage. The White House has said that at least 31 Americans were killed by Hamas and other militant groups on Oct. 7.

Four Americans were released as part of a U.S.-negotiated cease-fire in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza that was brokered with the assistance of Qatar and Egypt.

One American woman was supposed to be released by Hamas under the terms of last month’s cease-fire, but she remains unaccounted for — a development that contributed to the end of the temporary pause in the fighting.

——

Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed reporting.

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Biden meets at White House with the families of Americans taken hostage by Hamas